Posted by Lilly from D006235.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu (18.104.22.168) on Sunday, December 08, 2002 at 12:37PM :
In Reply to: Leading Sunni Sheikh - Conquest of Rome posted by andreas from p3EE3C3E8.dip.t-dialin.net (22.214.171.124) on Sunday, December 08, 2002 at 8:04AM :
What's your point? Why are you posting these articles? Please explain your reasoning... I looked on their website, & they don't even give names of the "translators." & a Google search quickly exposed this document...
Brian Whitaker investigates whether the 'independent'
media institute that translates the Arabic newspapers
is quite what it seems
Monday August 12 2002
For some time now, I have been receiving small gifts
from a generous institute in the United States. The
gifts are high-quality translations of articles from
Arabic newspapers which the institute sends to me by
email every few days, entirely free-of-charge.
The emails also go to politicians and academics, as
well as to lots of other journalists. The stories hey
contain are usually interesting.
Whenever I get an email from the institute, several of
my Guardian colleagues receive one too and regularly
forward their copies to me - sometimes with a note
suggesting that I might like to check out the story
and write about it.
If the note happens to come from a more senior
colleague, I'm left feeling that I really ought to
write about it. One example last week was a couple of
paragraphs translated by the institute, in which a
former doctor in the Iraqi army claimed that Saddam
Hussein had personally given orders to amputate the
ears of military deserters.
The organisation that makes these translations and
sends them out is the Middle East Media Research
Institute (Memri), based in Washington but with
recently-opened offices in London, Berlin and
Its work is subsidised by US taxpayers because as an
"independent, non-partisan, non-profit" organisation,
it has tax-deductible status under American law.
Memri's purpose, according to its website, is to
bridge the language gap between the west - where few
speak Arabic - and the Middle East, by "providing
timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew
Despite these high-minded statements, several things
make me uneasy whenever I'm asked to look at a story
circulated by Memri. First of all, it's a rather
mysterious organisation. Its website does not give the
names of any people to contact, not even an office
The reason for this secrecy, according to a former
employee, is that "they don't want suicide bombers
walking through the door on Monday morning"
(Washington Times, June 20).
This strikes me as a somewhat over-the-top precaution
for an institute that simply wants to break down
east-west language barriers.
The second thing that makes me uneasy is that the
stories selected by Memri for translation follow a
familiar pattern: either they reflect badly on the
character of Arabs or they in some way further the
political agenda of Israel. I am not alone in this
Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations told the Washington Times: "Memri's intent
is to find the worst possible quotes from the Muslim
world and disseminate them as widely as possible."
Memri might, of course, argue that it is seeking to
encourage moderation by highlighting the blatant
examples of intolerance and extremism. But if so, one
would expect it - for the sake of non-partisanship -
to publicise extremist articles in the Hebrew media
Although Memri claims that it does provide
translations from Hebrew media, I can't recall
Evidence from Memri's website also casts doubt on its
non-partisan status. Besides supporting liberal
democracy, civil society, and the free market, the
institute also emphasises "the continuing relevance of
Zionism to the Jewish people and to the state of
That is what its website used to say, but the words
about Zionism have now been deleted. The original
page, however, can still be found in internet
The reason for Memri's air of secrecy becomes clearer
when we look at the people behind it. The co-founder
and president of Memri, and the registered owner of
its website, is an Israeli called Yigal Carmon.
Mr - or rather, Colonel - Carmon spent 22 years in
Israeli military intelligence and later served as
counter-terrorism adviser to two Israeli prime
ministers, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin.
Retrieving another now-deleted page from the archives
of Memri's website also throws up a list of its staff.
Of the six people named, three - including Col Carmon
- are described as having worked for Israeli
Among the other three, one served in the Israeli
army's Northern Command Ordnance Corps, one has an
academic background, and the sixth is a former
Col Carmon's co-founder at Memri is Meyrav Wurmser,
who is also director of the centre for Middle East
policy at the Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute,
which bills itself as "America's premier source of
applied research on enduring policy challenges".
The ubiquitous Richard Perle, chairman of the
Pentagon's defence policy board, recently joined
Hudson's board of trustees.
Ms Wurmser is the author of an academic paper entitled
Can Israel Survive Post-Zionism? in which she argues
that leftwing Israeli intellectuals pose "more than a
passing threat" to the state of Israel, undermining
its soul and reducing its will for self-defence.
In addition, Ms Wurmser is a highly qualified,
internationally recognised, inspiring and
knowledgeable speaker on the Middle East whose
presence would make any "event, radio or television
show a unique one" - according to Benador
Associates, a public relations company which touts her
Nobody, so far as I know, disputes the general
accuracy of Memri's translations but there are other
reasons to be concerned about its output.
The email it circulated last week about Saddam Hussein
ordering people's ears to be cut off was an extract
from a longer article in the pan-Arab newspaper,
al-Hayat, by Adil Awadh who claimed to have first-hand
knowledge of it.
It was the sort of tale about Iraqi brutality that
newspapers would happily reprint without checking,
especially in the current atmosphere of war fever. It
may well be true, but it needs to be treated with a
Mr Awadh is not exactly an independent figure. He is,
or at least was, a member of the Iraqi National
Accord, an exiled Iraqi opposition group backed by the
US - and neither al-Hayat nor Memri mentioned this.
Also, Mr Awadh's allegation first came to light some
four years ago, when he had a strong personal reason
for making it. According to a Washington Post report
in 1998, the amputation claim formed part of his
application for political asylum in the United States.
At the time, he was one of six Iraqis under arrest in
the US as suspected terrorists or Iraqi intelligence
agents, and he was trying to show that the Americans
had made a mistake.
Earlier this year, Memri scored two significant
propaganda successes against Saudi Arabia. The first
was its translation of an article from al-Riyadh
newspaper in which a columnist wrote that Jews use the
blood of Christian or Muslim children in pastries for
the Purim religious festival.
The writer, a university teacher, was apparently
relying on an anti-semitic myth that dates back to the
middle ages. What this demonstrated, more than
anything, was the ignorance of many Arabs - even those
highly educated - about Judaism and Israel, and their
readiness to believe such ridiculous stories.
But Memri claimed al-Riyadh was a Saudi "government
newspaper" - in fact it's privately owned - implying
that the article had some form of official approval.
Al-Riyadh's editor said he had not seen the article
before publication because he had been abroad. He
apologised without hesitation and sacked his
columnist, but by then the damage had been done.
Memri's next success came a month later when Saudi
Arabia's ambassador to London wrote a poem entitled
The Martyrs - about a young woman suicide bomber -
which was published in al-Hayat newspaper.
Memri sent out translated extracts from the poem,
which it described as "praising suicide bombers".
Whether that was the poem's real message is a matter
of interpretation. It could, perhaps more plausibly,
be read as condemning the political ineffectiveness of
Arab leaders, but Memri's interpretation was reported,
almost without question, by the western media.
These incidents involving Saudi Arabia should not be
viewed in isolation. They are part of building a case
against the kingdom and persuading the United States
to treat it as an enemy, rather than an ally.
It's a campaign that the Israeli government and
American neo-conservatives have been pushing since
early this year - one aspect of which was the bizarre
anti-Saudi briefing at the Pentagon, hosted last month
by Richard Perle.
To anyone who reads Arabic newspapers regularly, it
should be obvious that the items highlighted by Memri
are those that suit its agenda and are not
representative of the newspapers' content as a whole.
The danger is that many of the senators, congressmen
and "opinion formers" who don't read Arabic but
receive Memri's emails may get the idea that these
extreme examples are not only truly representative but
also reflect the policies of Arab governments.
Memri's Col Carmon seems eager to encourage them in
that belief. In Washington last April, in testimony to
the House committee on international relations, he
portrayed the Arab media as part of a wide-scale
system of government-sponsored indoctrination.
"The controlled media of the Arab governments conveys
hatred of the west, and in particular, of the United
States," he said. "Prior to September 11, one could
frequently find articles which openly supported, or
even called for, terrorist attacks against the United
"The United States is sometimes compared to Nazi
Germany, President Bush to Hitler, Guantanamo to
Auschwitz," he said.
In the case of the al-Jazeera satellite channel, he
added, "the overwhelming majority of guests and
callers are typically anti-American and anti-semitic".
Unfortunately, it is on the basis of such sweeping
generalisations that much of American foreign policy
is built these days.
As far as relations between the west and the Arab
world are concerned, language is a barrier that
perpetuates ignorance and can easily foster
All it takes is a small but active group of Israelis
to exploit that barrier for their own ends and start
changing western perceptions of Arabs for the worse.
It is not difficult to see what Arabs might do to
counter that. A group of Arab media companies could
get together and publish translations of articles that
more accurately reflect the content of their
It would certainly not be beyond their means. But, as
usual, they may prefer to sit back and grumble about
the machinations of Israeli intelligence veterans.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited
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